Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

"Not the Same Story": Conducting Interviews with Queer Community Activists (1)

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

"Not the Same Story": Conducting Interviews with Queer Community Activists (1)

Article excerpt

In this paper I critically reflect upon the process of employing oral history to inform socio-political theory. My own research serves as an example of the strengths and challenges of this approach. Specifically, I will outline the various methodologies I utilized in my doctoral dissertation, discuss the background to the project, and analyze the "fieldwork." In this research, I traced the introduction and subsequent defeat of the Ontario New Democratic Party's 1994 Equality Rights Statute Amendment Law (Bill 167), and point towards the implications of the 1999 Supreme Court ruling that Ontario's definition of 'spouse" violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The main methodologies I employed are "critical autobiography," discourse analysis, and oral history.

Dans cet article, j'offre une reflexion critique de l'utilisation qui est faite de l'histoire orate dans l'elaboration de la theorie socio-politique. Ma propre recherche sert d'exemple des forces et faiblesses de ce genre d'approche. Specifiquement, je soulignerai les diverses methodologies dont je me suis servie dans ma dissertation doctorale, discuterai de l'arriereplan du project, et analyserai le travail effectue sur le terrain. A travers cette enquete, j'ai trace 'introduction et la defaite subsequente du projet de toi 167 introduit par le NPD en 1994, et m'oriente vers les implications de la decision de la cour supreme en 1999 affirmant que la definition d'[much less than] epoux"[much greater than] en Ontario viole Ia Charte des droits et libertes, Les methodologies principales que j'ai employees sent l'[much less than] autobiographie[much greater than] critique ", 'analyse du discours, et l'histoire orale.

Introduction

The basis for this paper is my investigation into the introduction and subsequent defeat of the Equality Rights Statute Amendment Law (Bill 167) put forth by the Ontario New Democratic Party in 1994. The main question I explored in my work is whether it is possible (or indeed desirable) to fight for same-sex spousal rights while simultaneously remaining critical of the goals and conception of "family" operating in this struggle. Queer community organizing is an under-researched area, partly because of the difficulties associated with information gathering. Speaking to those involved in the struggles around same-sex spousal recognition, as I will demonstrate, is a complex enterprise. In this paper I will critically reflect upon the process of employing oral history to inform socio-political theory for the purposes of exploring the rise and fall of Bill 167. My own research will serve as an example of the strengths and challenges of collecting oral narratives from queer community activists. Specifically, I will outline the various methodologies I have utilized, discuss the background to the project, and analyze the "fieldwork."

Had Bill 167 been enacted, lesbian and gay couples in Ontario would have been subject to the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual common-law couples. Three years later, British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to entrench thoroughgoing legislative recognition of same-sex partners. (2) And then on May 20, 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 8-1 in the case of M v. H. that Ontario's heterosexual definition of 6 "spouse" violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While the Conservative provincial government was only ordered to rewrite sections of the Family Law Act pertaining to support payments, this historic decision has wider implications for same-sex spousal rights and responsibilities in this country. Hundreds of laws will likely have to be rewritten in light of this redefinition, and the institution of marriage may be impacted upon. (3)

Methodologies

To begin with, my voice is woven throughout my work and I use my own experience as a starting point of analysis. "Critical autobiography," or life-writing which strives to be non-essentializing, is an important strategy for me, as it both locates me within my writing and strengthens the ties between the "personal" and the "political. …

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